There’s got to be some irony in the US transference of control to Iraqi security forces while the Israelis pound Gaza. Why? Because, despite the hoopla in the US press and its Iraqi clones, the nature of the control being “given back” to the Iraqis seems quite similar to the control over Gaza that was given them by the Israelis when they withdrew their forces in 2005. In other words, any control the Iraqi government and its security forces might now have can be removed at any time by US forces. Indeed, the US forces are not even withdrawing. They are merely turning the security details they performed for the past five years or so to Iraqi security forces whose essential existence depends on the presence of US forces populating bases around Iraq.
According to the Washington Post article about the transfer, “the long-term plan, which could change if security deteriorates, is to maintain a handful of heavily secured American compounds,” which would facilitate support, intelligence and other such functions on an ongoing basis. In addition, the US forces will also be available for raids and other police and military actions when the US-approved government in Baghdad asks for their help. While it is safe to assume that many of these actions will be at the genuine request of that government, it is also safe to expect that some will be at the behest of the US command.
While no one has suggested that this transfer of control is tantamount to the evacuation of US and allied forces from Saigon in 1975, the overall tone of the US mainstream media is that it is a step in that direction. This is patent nonsense. The nation of Iraq will not be rid of US military influence until every last US soldier is gone. This means troops considered combat forces along with those in support, intelligence and advisory roles. In case Americans have missed it, this fact will not exist on the ground for a long time. This means, quite simply, that there is plenty of time for things to go in a direction unfavorable to Washington’s designs. Should this occur, the likelihood of the recently negotiated Status of Forces Agreement existing in its current status diminishes rather quickly. For those unfamiliar with the actualities of the agreement, there is a section that allows either Washington or any Iraqi government to abrogate the agreement at any time. As for the rest of the agreement, US military officials are already on record calling into question elements of the agreement that limit their troops’ ability to conduct raids, move freely about the country, and defend US bases.
When it comes to Washington, the Bush administration has also questioned the interpretation of various parts of the agreement and has left it open for its successor to do the same. These questions seem to stem from the Pentagon’s resistance to the limitations on its mobility and perceived mission a strict interpretation of the agreement would require. Unless the Obama administration makes it clear that it will listen to US voters and begin the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq immediately, then the Pentagon will continue the occupation despite the opposition of the US and Iraqi people. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama has made no indication that he will fulfill the hopes of those that want all US troops home now. Like every other president of the US, he seems to have tuned out the voters and tuned in the generals. It is up to us to reverse that situation.
Only a few hours after the United Nations mandate for Iraq expired and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) went into effect, US forces opened fire on a female staffer for Iraq’s Biladi TV, critically wounding her. The reason for the attack was unclear. This incident could be the first test of the SOFA. After all, US forces are not supposed to do anything in Iraq without coordinating with the Iraqi government and aren’t supposed to have anything to do with civilians outside of an Iraqi court issued warrant. The possibility exists that this may be treated as a criminal assault and the US forces involved will be tried in an Iraqi court. The greater likelihood, however, is that nothing will happen and that US forces will continue to operate like the occupying forces they are. Kind of like the way the Israeli military operates in Gaza.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org